Saturday, October 29, 2011

Reflections Brought About by Chancery and DZVT Ashes

Right after the deliberate burning of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose’s two prominent entities or ministries, her Chancery Office and radio station DZVT, everyone in our place (including netizens from our province) instantly, at least figuratively, turned into fire and crime analysts and investigators. Different and contrasting theories and opinions that do more harm than good subdued the air like those ugly and suffocating smoke from a forest fire. They just added fuel to the flame and in a way continue the suffering of the people of God here in Occidental Mindoro, the believers of Christ. He is the same Christ who, according to the Apostle’s Creed, “…suffered under Pontius Pilate”.

A mere ocular scanning of the crime scene in the Chancery Building in Seminary Compound in Mabini St. Extension you would notice the crucifixion figure of Christ, about two feet tall, still hanging on the wall undisturbed despite of the horrific and evil devastation. The first time I saw t its aftermath and seeing that huge crucifix from a distance reminded me that the Passion of Christ did not end in Golgotha but continues to dwell among us. It continues to exist in our present history and in every hour of our life as a believer. This very tragic occurrence is a concrete example of our encounter with evil regardless if it dwells from the inside or outside of certain realm. This twin attack on the local Church - or its heirarchy, the priests, the nuns and the laity - placed us all, people of Occidental Mindoro, in what I can call as “Foot of the Cross” situation. Every one of us under its shadow, are telling what we really are. There are many of us made a mockery out of the event, playing games for fun and for other gains and use the situation as an opportunity to attack their enemies or to condemn known religious and political personalities. But let us not forget the majority who truly, physically and mentally suffer with the Church. The members of the Pamayanang Kristiyano, or the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) who truly agonize with Him and his Church during high-magnitude chaos like this. The former are those UNDERNEATH the Cross while latter are ON the Cross. Situations that make this tragedy and human suffering go on.

We have learned from Jesus that after (suffering from) the Cross comes Resurrection but we, clergy and lay especially those from the BECs, have to be united. It is written, “When anyone is united to Christ, there is a new world. The old order has gone and a new order has already begun” (2 Cor. 5:17) for God is not a God of burned things and ashes, of dead things but of renewed things.

Bishop Antonio P. Palang, SVD,DD is bound to issue a Pastoral Statement tomorrow from the pulpits of every churches and chapels in the diocese. Hope this will bring enlightenment and we will be informed of the official stand of our local Church on this issue to avoid speculations and shed light on the matter.

Though we all admit, human as we are, that there are tragedies which we are all powerless, especially those that are natural, this one is man-made and sure enough we will be able to conquer this particular tragedy and suffering. Our particular Church, the men (ordained or not) and women of faith in our province, are called to generate solidarity now more than ever and accept it, no matter how painful are they. This cross of tragedy and scandal that we are presently experiencing as a people is not only a cross or a problem to be investigated and to be solved but a cross to be picked-up to our hardened shoulders like a heavy yoke, a yoke that teach. Incidentally, our Gospel tomorrow is (Mat. 23:1-12) focused on our roles as teachers. Experience is the best teacher, remember? And if I may add, Benjamin Franklin once said, "Those things that hurt, instruct."

Somebody has to have a closer look to his flock and (re-)know his sheep individually and properly wield his authoritative rod of guidance and correction…

(Photo from 4Bp.blogspot)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Nonito Donaire’s Prior Victory

Long before his tomorrow’s scheduled match (some said it’s a mismatch!) with Argentina’s Omar Narvaez, world bantam weight champion Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire, the latter is already a winner in many ways. Am I talking here of his power of the purse? Nope. It’s something else and it’s more important to many.

It was Thursday, March 11, 2011 when Nonito made the most remarkable victory of his life. After a 3 year-feud, he finally reconciled with his father and former trainer, Nonito, Sr. Nonito Jr. and his wife Rachel blamed some sports media for allegedly destroying his family on exaggerated news reports. He said then, “My dad was always there to protect me. He’s always looked out for my benefit.” He further stressed, “What has been said in the media was… blown into something really big.”

Here in San Jose, we are all be trooping again to our favorite hang-outs - watering holes and hang outs- to watch the fight. It’s a tough fight for our guy but we all hope that extend his 25-match winning streak. But do not worry, The Flash gave us all assurance, "If I hit the right spot, if I hit the right point, it can end any moment.” Let us all keep our fingers crossed that come Sunday, our boxer would hit that whatever spot (was it the “Gee Spot”?) he is referring too. When we go to mass tomorrow morning, let us all pray not only for Nonito’s victory but for the two boxer’s safety.

Going back to the two Nonito’s reconciliation some months back, I presume that the negative relational crack between them, when glued together, became durable at powerful than ever. Mt. 22:34-40 is the Gospel this Sunday and it’s about strengthening of relationship. Among any other law and rules, the Law of Love is ever valid and true. It is the basis, not only of actions but of all laws on earth. Including perhaps the rules that they will be using and observing in the Donaire-Narvaez fight in the historic Madison Square Garden just less than 24 hours from now.

Even in a training camp, all of the team members are expected to strengthen their relationships for a particular mission. The reason is very obvious: Lack of unity and discouragement doesn’t inspire people that they have touched and inspired. All team members are expected to stay close and lean on with each other than pushing each other away with unfriendly gestures, cutting comments and angry attitudes, and they should know how good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity (Ps. 133:1) in a particular mission or for life.

Win or loose tomorrow against Narvaez with no loss record, Nonito is already the undisputed defending champion. At least in his father’s heart…

(Photo from World Boxing Council WBC)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wanted: Godly Caesars

Since I cannot find fresh examples from my diocese for this blog entry, allow me to import them from elsewhere. When eight bishops from the Bicol region, led by Archbishop Leonardo Legazpi, urged President Benigno Aquino III to immediately enforce the law banning all big commercial fishing companies in their area, can it be considered violation of “Separation of Church and the State”? Or when Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo pressed P-Noy for the passage of Freedom of Information (FOI) bill?

In Mt. 22:15-21, Jesus himself asserts the duty of paying one’s dues to the State, but without in any way reducing the claims of God: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and the things that are God’s.” In my own reflection on tomorrow’s (October 16) Gospel, our faith is not prohibiting us to be active members of our community or as citizens of the republic. We are not a bunch of believers detached from worldly affairs and its social dimensions. On the other hand, we ought to change them according to God’s plan. And a “package deal” at that and not only depends on our (especially priests’) tastes.

My favorite interpretation of Mt. 22:15-21 is the one I have read in the book “Being Church in Asia: Volume 1” edited by Fr. John Gnanapiragasam and Fr. Felix Wilfred: “If the State exercises authority by virtue of divine commission, for the very same reason the exercise of this authority should not be absolute, but should respect God’s sovereign power and authority in its various expressions in the society. The statement of Jesus regarding the problem of giving tribute to Caesar could be understood as a statement about the approach one should take towards the political and social structures. Caesar’s realm or the social political order of the Roman Empire was in Jesus view part of the larger order of creation whose only author is God. Therefore, the Roman social patterns were to be evaluated against the social patterns desired by God, and supported or not on this basis.” (p. 106)

True enough, the “Separation of Church and the State” is about mutual autonomy and the respect of that autonomy but rooted on cooperation from both the Church and the State for the common good and welfare. The Church does not expect the State to disrespect her moral teaching and directly attack her. We have no other choice but to defend it not only against relativist ideologues but even from de-orbited Catholics in our midst, in many religious organizations around us. We cannot afford to have a siesta on this.

The “Separation of Church and the State” is strictly defined in the 1987 Constitution referring to two points only: “1) that no religion may be established as the official religion of the State; 2) that the State may not favor one religion over others. No favoritism. At the same tie, if I may emphasize, the State shall forever allow the free exercise and enjoyment of religion and shall not require any religious test for the exercise of civil and political rights. It does not require division between belief and public action, moral principles and political choices. Rather, the “Separation of Church and the State” protects the rights of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life. This thing is called “Religious Freedom.”

But come to think of it, even Caesar belongs to God. And if God would take everything that are God’s from Caesar, there will be NOTHING left for the king.

Including all the edifices built under his name….

(Photo : Tocqueville Forum)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Lord’s “Dress Code”

Halasz and Koschinski. These surnames obviously are foreign-sounding for Ludwig (Luis) Halasz and George Koschinski are German priests assigned in our province. The both came from the same congregation, the Society of the Divine Word or SVD. Both served in Occidental Mindoro for a very long period of time, specifically in the towns of Sablayan and Magsaysay, respectively. And despite of their shortcomings as human beings, they came to the wedding banquet fully observing its dress code (Matthew 22:1-14 [tomorrow's Gospel]), so to speak.

Well, I will share to you a little something about these two great men who became part of the journey of Christian communities of Sablayan and Magsaysay. First is a little anecdote when Fr. Ludwig Halasz’ first set foot in Sablayan and the late Fr. George Koschinski’s poem called “Walking Tall”, the author’s short reflection on the “death-defying” position of a bishop, among other things. Well, in short, I am just giving a little tribute to the two great men of faith that in one way or another, touched the lives of multitudes in the parishes where they were assigned.

On Ash Wednesday in 1958, Bishop Wilhelm Duschak, SVD on a breakfast table told Fr. Ludwig Halasz, SVD, “I like you to proceed to Sablayan and be the parish priest there, and I wish you God’s blessings.” In his write-up which appeared in the Souvenir Program for 50th Anniversary of the Canonical Erection of San Sebastian Parish (1953-2003), Fr. Halasz wrote that he do not know then where Sablayan was when he accepted the appointment realizing what are the challenges ahead of him. In recollection, he imparted, “From Calapan, I proceeded first to Manila, and on Saturday, Feast of the Good Shepherd, I reached Sablayan on a boat carrying prisoners for the Penal Colony, celebrated my first mass in Sablayan together with the inmates and employees.”

“After lunch, I boarded again the Colony’s truck and under the heat of the sun, was brought again to the shore where we first landed, and took a small boat in the direction of the town. Small children guided me to the convent. Fr. Albert Cook, SVD, awakened from his nap, heartily and brotherly welcomed me. After he has read my appointment apparently as the in-coming parish priest, he said, “Good, I know, I told the Bishop that I can no longer remain in this post. I have to work somewhere else, where I am needed.” From his words, I felt that the hard works and loneliness await me, with only a motorboat as a connection with my Society brothers.” Fr. Halasz was alone for many years in his work as a missionary in Sablayan. Under his pastoral and administrative care, additional chapels in the barrios and school buildings were built and the Catholic school grew known today as the Colegio de San Sebastian or CDSS.

In 1968, the Sta. Teresa de Avila Parish in Barangay Sta. Teresa, Magsaysay was created and Fr. George Koschinski, SVD was appointed as its first parish priest. He stayed in Occidental Mindoro, particularly in Magsaysay, for many years, not unlike Fr. Halazs. In his little humorous book titled “Macaronic Doggrels” published in the late 80s’ we can read a poem called “Walking Tall” (from page 7) and I am sharing you this word for word:

It is a true matter of fact:
Being a bishop is a balancing act.
Because of high riding position,
More so if somewhere out in the mission.
Let us pray for those walking tall,
That they never, never may fall
May they go down in history,
But never in filibustery…”

Through Fr. George Koschinski, the Particular Church teamed up with the local government in many social projects aimed at improving the living condition of the people in this part of the province.

Like in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, all of us are invited to the wedding, saint and sinners alike. And to say the least, we would be unworthy to even come near the door of the banquet hall if we are “improperly dressed”.

Wearing the “proper garments" of worship and service just like what Halasz and Koschinski and the rest of us did in our province…

(Photo : Wow Sablayan)